Marijuana: the Search for Opioid Alternatives

The legalization of marijuana has become such a topic of social, political, and scientific debate in America that its use has been, in my opinion, driven by the popularity of users who rebel against its regulation, the newly made millionaires in the industry, and the search for safer alternatives to current public health crises.


Today, more than 115 people in the United States die daily from opioid overdose The misuse of painkillers alone is currently costing the United States $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, addiction treatment, and costs of the judicial action.

Proponents of holistic medicine and interventions with herbal treatments have advocated strongly for use marijuana as a medical alternative. The strong debate by physicians, who believe.pharmaceuticals should be replaced by medicinal herbs, have started to study the efficacy of different strains of marijuana and its addition to initial treatments. Under a reluctant compromise, physicians are contending with the following arguments.


Marijuana is a Less Addictive Pain Alternative:

Safer and less addictive methods to pain management have lead supporters to argue that recommending marijuana more broadly for pain could reduce the number of people who get hooked on opioids and start to abuse the prescription system by.finding multiple physicians who will prescribe them pain medication.

Most offices and clinics are not set up sustain acute pain cases where medication is available for three days to a week. But, when you receive a (medical-marijuana) card, you are able to provide treatment up to a year.

Studies conducted at the state level show that expanding access to medical marijuana may be directly proportional to lower rates of opioid misuse and overdose. The studies to show that using medical cannabis is correlated with higher rates of using and misusing opioids thoroughly conflict with users who confirm that the marijuana kept them from using additional medication to address their pain issues. This set of conflicting research has revealed less about the relationship between marijuana and opioids than it has about how science is misunderstood and misused in political debates.

The healthcare professionals who try to discourage the use and legalization of medical marijuana contend that it is a gateway drug; however, they never elaborate on the correlation, nor what initiates the transition to opioid use.


Marijuana is a Gateway to Increased Opioid Use:

Dr. Nadelmann, a renowned researcher of pharmaceuticals,  indicated that many previous studies to show long how one drug enhances the effect of another have contradicted the gateway theory. A 2008 paper found that by taking marijuana, chronic-pain sufferers could reduce their doses of pain-relieving opioids, for example, people who combine marijuana with prescription opioids are not more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs. This is huge! Fact checks it!!

The effort to escape the hardships and other mental stressors, as they relate to poverty and poor social environment, are greater predictors of hard drug use rather than the early exposure to soft drugs. Health advocates may rally around a concept that people are genetically predisposed, or by virtue of their environment, simply more likely than others to become addicted to drugs, but I dispute this “conditioning”.  The mastery of emotional intelligence and the ability to overcome, or persevere, life’s unpredictable hardships explains why so many people can use so-called gateway drugs and never become addicted.

Something to Think About:

Parents looking to protect their kids from addiction should focus less on the drugs they are using, and more on underlying, untreated psychological and mental issues that may be the catalyst for their drug use. The next question should be if their child is using this substance as a form of self-medication in the absence of professional help. There are testimonials out that mental health patients are using marijuana in addition to taking psychotropic drugs, but will this correlate to increased use of opioids? I hope this blog inspires you to do the research.


Marijuana Use with Psychotropic Medications:

There are a lot of gaps in the research of the therapeutic role it can play when it comes to mental illness, especially in the US, but medical researchers are looking at the various strains that could have some medicinal benefit to patients who have lost faith in their medications to relieve their mental health issues. Lev-Ran, another published researcher, found that people with mental illnesses are over seven times more likely to use cannabis weekly than those without a mental illness. He also noted that those who use cannabis are at an increased risk of developing depression. Like many researchers, they continue to believe that childhood upbringing and a family history of substance abuse is a predictor of predisposition to drug abuse, but there are other studies that confirm that individuals with depression were at a higher risk to start using cannabis compared to those with no depression.

The research on psychotic disorders like bipolar or schizophrenia is supposed to be clear-cut and people heritably predisposed to schizophrenia, using cannabis, particularly during adolescence, increases the risk of developing the mental illness, but actual users are still debunking these findings.


Establishing Transparency

Although many of these actual “subjects” may never get their stories told, people like Charendoff, with the borderline personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia, discovered that cannabis was the most powerful and effective way to relieve the anxiety that paralyzed her when she had to leave the house. She says. “I can actually function when I smoke weed. It’s the only thing that’s had any impact. When I take an Ativan, I just want to lie down and sleep.” When managing psychotropic medication with marijuana usage, it is imperative to understand what the risks and implications are with doing so.

Marijuana Use with Ritalin

Despite near-unanimous medical warnings, marijuana use is widespread among psychiatric patients, including those with psychotic disorders. but advocates for suicide prevention and addressing PTSD in the veteran community are touting its benefits for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Studies showed adults suffering from ADHD, who were therapy-resistant to conventional pharmacological treatment, were granted permission to use cannabis flowers between 2012 and 2014. The conclusion of this case study was that “for adult patients with ADHD, who experience side effects or do not profit from standard medication, cannabis may be an effective and well-tolerated alternative.

Marijuana Use with Seroquel

Users with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia stated that cannabis can actually alleviate some of the negative aspects of Seroquel ie. neuroleptic malignant syndrome. There are still studies that attempt to dispel the benefits of marijuana, but it is still dangerous to mix any narcotic with psychotropic medications.



The credibility of researchers can be better enhanced through transparency, but constraints in funding, control by an administrative bureaucracy, and political implications from using sources that validate the benefits of using marijuana for medicinal purposes will facilitate the scrutiny in selecting subjects for “ credible” research. The debate over marijuana use as a relief for pain management, mental health treatment, additional relief from the side effects of psychological medications, and even being a gateway drug will continue. From a public health perspective, I believe the consensus from the people and developing a realistic community health needs assessment  will address where the sources of opioid misuse exist, and that the social, economic, and political ramifications behind this epidemic will continue to be speculative until researchers shed themselves of the political correctness that regulatory organizations are expecting..